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Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Intermarché-Wanty starts a long weekend of Belgian classics

Intermarché-Wanty kicks off its classics campaign on Belgian soil with three events in a timespan of four days: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (1.WT) on Saturday 24th of February, followed by Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (1.Pro) on Sunday 25th of February and the first Walloon race of the season with Le Samyn (1.1) on Tuesday 27th February. 

A group of twelve riders, ten from the World Team and two U23 riders of Wanty-ReUz-Technord, will be directed by Aike Visbeek, Dimitri Claeys, Steven De Neef and trainers Christophe Prémont and Frederik Veuchelen.

The Walloon World Team participates in the second classic on the World Tour calendar on Saturday, after the podium of Georg Zimmermann in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in January. Starting from ‘t Kuipke in Ghent at 11.00 a.m., the riders have to cover 202 kilometres to reach Ninove, with a triple passage of the Haaghoek and Leberg, the return of the Molenberg with 40 kilometres to go, before the final on the Muur van Geraardsbergen and Bosberg in the last 15 kilometres.

The following day, thirteen climbs in the heart of the Flemish Ardennes and the Pays des Collines are on the menu for Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. With the exception of the new start in Kortrijk, the route is nearly identical to the two previous editions, in which Taco van der Hoorn kept the suspense high until the finish by securing a top ten from the early breakaway. The Côte de Trieu and the Kluisberg, the last two climbs on the course with over 60 kilometres to go, are followed by a 500m cobbled sector in the Beerbosstraat before the entry on the local circuit in Kuurne.

Biniam Girmay participates in the opening weekend for the first time, combining Omloop Het Nieuwblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne together with Mike Teunissen, Hugo Page and Adrien Petit. They will be joined on Saturday by Laurenz Rex, Dries De Pooter and neo-pro Roel van Sintmaartensdijk, who lines up for his first World Tour race. On Sunday, the quartet will be strengthened by Gerben Thijssen, Vito Braet and Madis Mihkels.

On Tuesday, Le Samyn traditionally opens the Walloon cycling calendar with a 204 kilometre race through the province of Hainaut, from Quaregnon to Dour, with 12 kilometres of cobbled sectors to cover on the four local laps. Laurenz Rexwill receive the support of Vito Braet, Dries De Pooter, Madis Mihkels, Roel van Sintmaartensdijk and the U23 riders Huub Artz and Tim Rex from Wanty-ReUz-Technord.

“I’m happy to be back in Belgium for the first time since our teambuilding in Durbuy and to discover the opening weekend. I’ll thus benefit from a first experience with the cobbles and the Flemish roads before the Monuments. This weekend is important for my confidence and that of the team. We want to show ourselves with the aim of achieving a good result and starting our classics campaign in a good way.” “I trained hard the past couple of weeks on altitude at home in Asmara and in company of Rein Taaramäe and my brother Mewael. Physically I feel quite good. My mindset is also optimal, this aspect is equally important in the pure battle of the classics. My feeling was really good during the recon of Omloop het Nieuwsblad on Thursday. I appreciated being back on the cobbles for the first time since Binche-Chimay-Binche and I feel I always adapt better to the wet weather conditions in Belgium.”

"I'm pleased with the our preparation for the Belgian opening weekend. For the second year running, we organised recons for the Flemish classics from in November. And last week, our riders put in some extra miles after the stages of the Tour of the Algarve. All indications show that they're progressing towards their peak form, especially the riders with around ten days of racing under their belts." "Biniam Girmay returns in competition after a long training block in Eritrea, and generally responds well after a period at altitude. For his debut in the Belgian opening weekend he will be our leader, surrounded by our other protected riders Hugo Page, Laurenz Rex and Mike Teunissen. They can rely on the support of Dries De Pooter, Adrien Petit, Roel van Sintmaartensdijk, Vito Braet and Madis Mihkels. With Gerben Thijssen, we have an extra card to play on Sunday in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, where we have to wait and see how the race develops to make our strategical decisions for the final. Laurenz Rex will then focus on Le Samyn." "Our team is well-balanced and competitive, with enough strength to be in the mix for the top results. It will be important to use that strength at decisive moments and combine it with fighting spirit and team spirit. I will stress the importance of a bit of luck and staying sharp all race, the factors we were missing last season. In any case, we've already made a very good start to the season, which brings us a lot of confidence and conviction. This allows us to line up for the races with the will to perform, and not with a mindset dominated by the pressure to achieve results."

RESULTS

General Classification

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